Irina Bokova takes office as Director-General of UNESCO

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

On 15 November 2009, I took office as Director-General of UNESCO, the United Nations specialized agency whose mission is to build peace through education, science and culture. To this end, I look forward to establishing dynamic relations of cooperation with the entire United Nations family.
My role carries great responsibilities, especially in today’s complex landscape. Globalization is a hallmark of our times. It leads to new openings but also runs the risk of increasing uniformization. Our times are also marked by a multifaceted crisis showing the need to question the way we do things. I am convinced that humanist values are at the core of the answers we need to provide. Tolerance, respect for cultural diversity and dialogue among cultures are the paths that I shall follow and to which UNESCO will be fully committed. I am also convinced that education has a key role to play: to my mind, it is the priority of priorities. Education is the cornerstone on which a more just society can be built.

I am fully conscious of the vast disparities among human destinies. I feel deeply concerned by the distress that afflicts our world. This is why I resolve to fully unleash UNESCO’s potential to serve humanity. I shall ensure that all of UNESCO’s experience and intellectual resources focus on substance, namely the projects that we implement worldwide. We shall stay as close as possible to the needs of Member States and give top priority to Africa, small island developing States, post-conflict countries and gender equality.
I intend to increase partnerships to take UNESCO outside its walls. I shall also endeavour to spread our message so that everyone has a clear understanding of what UNESCO is achieving. I shall engage in direct and dynamic communication with the media to make our Organization better known and build public awareness of the immense challenges of our times. Poverty, illiteracy, the decline in diversity, climate change, water shortage and the disappearance of languages are matters of concern to us all. They have to be tackled with a sense of commitment and solidarity.

As Director-General of UNESCO, I shall practise the values that are at the heart of the new humanism I am advocating, namely solidarity and sharing. My goal is to lead the world towards a new era of peace. I wish to show, through action and tangible results, that international solidarity is a more satisfactory state than indifference. There is no geographical dividing line between happiness and suffering, strength and weakness. We shall convince the strongest to help the weakest. We are bound together because we belong to one planet.
UNESCO is a laboratory of ideas, the “conscience of humanity” in the words of the great humanist Jawaharlal Nehru. I shall open UNESCO’s doors to intellectuals, scientists and artists so that viable solutions are found here to the great challenges of our time.

To all women, men, children and young people, rest assured that UNESCO will find renewed strength to help you to lead better lives, in line with our specific mandate in the fields of education, science, culture and communication. Drawing on the great moments of its history and experience, UNESCO pledges to combat exclusion: illiteracy is exclusion, so is extreme poverty. UNESCO will focus on the most urgent programmes. We shall be on our guard, aware, effective and present. I shall ensure that all projects involving development and international aid integrate our domains of expertise. I shall reopen the debate on culture and sustainable development.

Today, I pledge to serve all nations and their peoples. I hope that this message of friendship and appeal for solidarity will reach many of you. I am naturally relying on you because together and through multilateral cooperation, we shall be stronger in our mission. There is a place for each and every one of us to be involved.

Irina Gueorguieva Bokova
Director-General of UNESCO


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